Sunday, February 13, 2011

SHAMSUL AKMAR: Get Your Facts Right, Malott

Another response to John Malott's Malaysia's Racism.

FORMER United States ambassador to Malaysia John R. Malott must be over himself with the attention given to his recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled the "The price of Malaysia's racism".
A shallow article from a less-than-average diplomat should not have made Malaysians excited but instead, make them realise that amid the powerful nation's diplomatic corps, mediocrity does exist.

At the same time, there are, of course, the "anglophile" Malaysians who will take the opinion of a racist white man as gospel. This is apart from those who have decided that Malaysia is a failed state, adding to the crowd of naysayers.

Since there are many "Uncle Toms" in the our midst, Malott's piece needs some scrutiny so as not to allow his brand of racism and propaganda to get away with impunity.

First, all the issues he raised had gone through the processes of political debates and the law and put to rest.

They were the "cow head" procession, removal of crosses and claims of unpatriotic non-Malays with regard to the armed forces. Those involved had either been punished or apologised.

The other issues are political posturing, perceptions and minority rights viz. affirmative action at the expense of the country's minorities.

Herein lies Malott's confusion and distorted logic.

Coming from a country claiming to be the purveyor of democracy, Malott forgets that he is dealing with a much younger nation, whose democratic practices may not be as "mature" as the Americans'.

Malott may not realise that all Malaysians, or then citizens of Tanah Melayu, had the right to vote from the day the country gained independence in 1957 unlike the US where African-Americans only enjoyed such rights after the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed.

In the American context of discrimination against minorities, Malott would have to understand that such a thing does not exist in Malaysia.

The Jim Crow laws, which upheld the segregation between "whites and Negroes", were repealed only in the 1960s.

These laws barred African-Americans from mingling with the whites, be it in schools, universities, the military, buses, toilets and even drinking fountains.

Such segregation has never existed in Malaysia and is not about to start nor will it be allowed to take root.

In fact, it is the reverse, especially in the case of Malaysian schools where the minority chooses to remain in vernacular schools, spurning calls by the government to embrace national schools.

Of course, it can be argued that many feel vernacular schools offer a better education than national schools but the fact remains -- there is no segregation.

Not to be ignored is affirmative action, which Malott attempted to pin as the factor for the bad blood between the races.

Again, Malott exposes his lack of intellect or ignorance because the affirmative action here is a direct opposite to that of the US.

The affirmative action in Malaysia is targeted at the majority while in the US, it is for the minority.

In other words, it is accepted that the minority, as a collective entity, is economically superior to the majority. Even then, the affirmative action target is 30 per cent equity of national wealth for more than 60 per cent of the population.

Simply put, it is an attempt to allow more than 60 per cent of the population just about one-third of the nation's wealth. The target had not been achieved and the policy had been criticised, not for its objectives, but for its implementation.

Compare this with the American affirmative action, which is targeted at improving the less than 15 per cent African-American population. Despite the small target, the minority is still the most disadvantaged with an economic equity of about seven per cent.

In short, it is the majority in Malaysia which is economically displaced and the minorities hold an equity larger than their population (again this is stated within the context of a collective entity just in case some Malaysians who think like Malott start arguing the minority groups also have their share of the poor).

The best joke is Malott's attempt at discussing Malaysia's economic standing and claiming it was worse than the racial tensions of 1969.

He should then be more concerned with the state of affairs in America, where those living below the poverty line comprise more than 12 per cent (2004 estimates, long before the sub-prime crisis, junk bonds and collapse of its financial institutions) and almost double-digit unemployment rate with growth of less than three per cent.

By comparison, Malaysia's standing is healthy if the US is the yardstick, with about five per cent of the population living under the poverty line, unemployment at 3.5 per cent and growth steadily rising to above seven per cent.

In short, Malott should have urged Washington to use Malaysia as a case study.

That being the case, what was the rationale behind Malott's piece?

As pointed out earlier, it was an attempt to redeem himself for his shortcomings in 1995-1998 when he had wrongly advised Washington on the situation in Malaysia, apart from failing to ensure that his predictions came true.

He had then equated Malaysia to Indonesia, of turning to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the ascension of a leader of Washington's choice and the end of opposition to American hegemony.

But Malott is not about to give up.

The "Uncle Toms" here are ready to jump when he commands them

Read more: SHAMSUL AKMAR: Get your facts right, Malott

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